Let’s be real; we’ve all gossiped at some point in our lives. Maybe we caught ourselves right away and shut it down, or maybe we let it go on in the name of “externally processing.” It’s totally okay to talk through conflict with safe people who can help us get to a solution. However, it’s not okay to join in on the discussion simply because it makes us feel validated in our own offenses.
Gossip is a quick way to lose friends and cause division. In Proverbs 16:28 it clearly lays out the effects of gossip, “A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.” Not only can gossip separate close friends, but it also destroys teams. I’ve seen gossip put walls up between people—walls that are built on the foundation of assumptions and laid with bricks of bitterness. Every whisper and hurtful word lays another line of bricks, creating walls of division and mistrust. This is not God’s heart for His people! And to be honest, I think most people don’t intentionally set out to cause division. However, sometimes gossip sneaks in slowly and ends up building to a place of destruction. The principle of resolution in any situation like this is; if you are not a part of the problem or you’re not a part of the solution, then it’s none of your business.
Let me give you a few ways to avoid being a gossiper:
- Misery loves company, so don’t be it’s friend. Bitterness, jealousy, and offense are magnetic forces that attract like-attitudes into their vortex. When people are offended with somebody, everyone else who’s offended with that person will mysteriously find them. Don’t fall into group thinking like this. Remember to let God’s voice be the loudest one in conflict situations, drowning out offense and gossip.
- Offense is like a virus that spreads through the air, so inoculate yourself. Offense is caught through speech, body language, and attitude. A great way to avoid getting infected is to check in with yourself daily to see if your attitude needs an adjustment. Holy Spirit will convict you and correct you by His kindness. It’s often times that He’s killed offense even in my own heart by showing me just how much He loves the person I’m having conflict with. He’s the kindest person I know, and His kindness moves me out of offense and into love.
- Don’t lend an ear if you’re not a part of the solution. If someone has something against a person and speaks to you about it, your only response should be to send them back to the person who they have a problem with. If you say nothing, your silence will be interpreted as agreeing with the offended person.
- Get to the root of the problem. What’s really going on with the people who are gossiping around you? Maybe they’re insecure and lashing out to feel powerful? Maybe they don’t understand how powerful they are or how their actions are affecting those around them. Symptomatic cures don’t actually solve root problems. Ask questions until you get to the heart of the real issue.
I love what Joyce Meyer says, “Unforgiveness is like drinking deadly poison and then thinking the other person is going to die.” Forgiveness is the only 100% cure for bitterness and offense. If you’re in a community where gossip is running rampant, help those involved to understand how their behavior is affecting people, and be an advocate for forgiveness. Although we don’t know people’s motives, we do know how their attitudes and behavior are affecting our culture. We need to learn how to give honest feedback to others, and let them know the way their actions are making us feel. At that point, it’s up to them to do something with that information. Maybe they need help dealing with the root behind their gossiping, or perhaps they really need to learn how to do confrontation well. I want to encourage you today to be brave, even if that means going against the crowd, and be a proponent for truth and honor! Let’s take Ephesians 4:29 to heart when it says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”